A year ago today, the state of Florida rejoiced. Lifelong partners finally got their unions legally certified. Young families were officially recognized as such by the state. The steadfast resolution of countless individuals who worked tirelessly for years to achieve equality for all culminated in that day’s celebrations. One such crusader, always working behind the scenes, is Julia Dawson.
Dawson has served as president of three Florida National Organization for Women (NOW) chapters, as a member of the NOW national board, on the Dade County Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers board of directors, as a Florida legislative director and lobbyist and on the board of SAVE — fighting to pass Miami-Dade county’s Human Rights. And yet Dawson is humbled by the Pa’Lante Award she will receive at the Gay8 Festival on January 17.
“I am so fortunate to live in a community filled with many amazing and dedicated social justice and human rights activists,” she says. “To be included alongside the other three recipients and the historic community work they have done makes this recognition especially meaningful to me.”
Born and raised in Miami, Dawson knows this town well and is aware of how far it has come. Her participation in the feminist movement of the early 1970s was just the beginning of a lifelong crusade against inequality. She organized, marched and eventually entered Antioch School of Law in Washington, DC to take her fight to the next level. Dawson has been a catalyst for change of the best kind in this city: the kind that improves the lives of everyone in the community.
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“Change is part Miami’s DNA, and each new transition is both inspiring and challenging,” says Dawson. “The Gay8 Festival marks the beginning of a new Calle Ocho that brings with it not only excitement, but a very deliberate and considered commitment to address the important urban issues that often blemish the promise of change.”
While still active on gender justice, as well as civil rights and social justice issues, she now also works on policing issues and civilian oversight of police — an area that has garnered much national attention in the last year. She is currently on the Miami Workers Center board, working to fight racism and poverty while building community leadership with the Liberty City-based organization.
Her keen awareness of what it takes to create a thriving community makes her a perfect candidate for an award whose name translates as pushing ahead.
As for the upcoming festivities, Dawson is excited. “Meeting friends there, enjoying the music and entertainment and sampling the vendors sounds like a great way to spend the day.”